Toronto Mayor John Tory’s March 24th announcement that Uber would be providing free rides to vaccine clinics does not appear to be supported by any actual program to have Uber provide free rides to vaccine clinics.
On March 24th, Tory hosted a press conference to announce the Vaccine Equity Transportation Program and indicated that Uber would be providing free rides to communities that need them in the form of “voucher codes.”
In response to Freedom of Information request submitted on March 28th requesting the names of the community groups receiving the vouchers; the number of vouchers provided; and the dates the vouchers were provided to the community groups, City Clerk John Elvidge replied on April 27th:
“Staff at the Mayor’s Office and Toronto Public Health Division have advised that despite a thorough search, they were unable to locate any records responsive to our request. Access therefore cannot be granted to those records as they do not exist.”
At the March 24th press conference, media asked Mayor Tory why there were no representatives of the regulated Taxi industry at the event; Tory replied that Uber was there because it had made a donation.
Later, in an unusually frank statement provided in writing to reporter Faiza Amin of CityTV, Toronto spokesperson Jasmine Patrick noted that Uber was identified to help transport senior citizens to vaccine appointments as “the result of their generous donation.”
“The Uber partnership is the result of their generous donation to the city of Toronto to enable transportation of seniors to vaccine sites,” wrote Jasmine Patrick, a spokesperson with the City of Toronto. “It is the second donation they have made during the pandemic to aid the city in responding to the needs of vulnerable residents. Uber approached the city directly to make this donation – many companies and organizations have made donations to the city’s pandemic efforts and we continue to welcome donations.”
Also on March 24th, the province of Ontario announced as part of its Budget release that $3.7 million will be allocated to vaccine transportation, a portion of which will flow to Toronto.
As to why no members of Toronto’s Taxi industry were at the announcement of the Vaccine Equity Transportation Program, Kristine Hubbard, Operations Manager at Toronto’s largest taxi brokerage Beck Taxi told RWN: “We were never asked. No one ever called us, or asked us what we could do to help.”
Industry observers question how Toronto can offer to put frail seniors or Ontarians with disabilities in Uber vehicles for transportation to vaccine clinics given that not a single ride hail driver has taken the training which was made a requirement by Toronto City Council in January, 2020.
View the PDF of the FOI document by clicking on this link:
Post updated at 9:46am May 3, 2021